Today I’m out biking early. Cycling through the morning’s crisp autumnal air, dipping into valleys of low-lying clouds and climbing up as the clearing mist reveals yet another breath-taking view over Dartmoor. I often cycle in the mornings and evenings, heading out towards an orange glowing sun, sinking to the horizon and lengthening shadows; giving the landscape an eerie quality suited to Autumn’s Halloween spirit. It is at dusk when you can best see why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set his ghostly detective story, the Hound of the Baskervilles, within this ‘landscape in a dream’.
In contrast to Doyle’s time, when much of the moor would have been difficult to pass through and the roads awful to ride, now Dartmoor is a cyclist’s and walker’s dream! With over 350km of bridleways and byways there is an endless variety of routes which criss-cross the national park to take you to the highlights and the edges of this beautiful moorland.
As everyone who has been cycling or walking over Dartmoor will know, the sentence ‘Dartmoor is not flat’ is something of an understatement. However, with hills come views. And with the views, quite often appears a nice café perched atop a rise, emanating warmth and the sweet smells of coffee and cake; a chance to rest those legs.
No cycle ride is complete without a good café pit-stop and our favourite Dartmoor cycle ride has got to include the stunning views when you reach the heights of Saddle and Hay Tor and the delights of Café on the Green for a pit-stop before the long freewheel down into Bovey Tracey. For those less inclined to chase after hills, my favourite gentle ride is along the Granite Way. This route offers an 18km converted rail-to-trail track, following the course of the old Southern Region railway line and offering the nicest, flattest ride over the Northern edges of Dartmoor National Park from Lydford To Oakhampton, over incredible bridges, through rolling moorland and past the stunning Meldon Reservoir.
Wherever you’re cycling you’re sure to be passing through beautiful villages, lunching in pubs and peering in (because who isn’t nosy) to the cosy living rooms of thatched Dartmoor cottages, lit by the first glowing fires of autumn. One particular joy of mine which never seems to fade is cycling past the Dartmoor ponies that are free to graze throughout much of this moorland.
If you are interested in cycling through this wonderful National Park, Active England Tours run 6 Day Guided Biking Holidays which begin in Devon and ride to all our favourite pubs, cafes and hotels across Dartmoor, before heading further South into Cornwall for some incredible coastal cycling and seaside villages.
Highlights on this trip include the gorgeous village of Chagford, Hay Tor and cycling through the upland Moors, The Granite Way that traces the converted railroad from Lydford to Oakhampton and Castle Drogo – the last castle to be built in England!